It’s almost gone, not quite but pretty close. By this time tomorrow 2006 will be but a memory and we will be standing on the threshold of a brand new year. Now during the first week of a new year it’s not unusual to reminisce about the past and to dream about the future. Were there things that we would change about the past 365 days if we had a chance or are we happy with the last 52 weeks of our lives. 2006 for all intensive purposes is gone, everything we did and everything we strived for is now history. December 2006 is as unobtainable as December 1996 or 1986 or 1906.
James 4:14 How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. Well the smoke of 2006 is starting to clear. We are moving into a new year and 2007 promises to be a great year in the life of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. And as we stand posed to step over the threshold into a year that holds so much promise maybe it would do well to reflect for a moment on 2006.
It has been a good year, a succesful year. This year we celebrated our first full year in our new church home. And it has been a great year. Last december was our first full month in the building and we aveaged 118 which was awesome, that was three times more then had been attending Cornerstone before the building, over the past three months our attendance has averaged 186 which has been a 50% incease over last year. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the increase last year was because of the church building but the increase this year has been because of the church body. You are to thank.
As a church we participated in 40 Days of Purpose and for many it was their first experience in a small group. In the past twelve months we have had 5 baptism services with at total of 17 folks baptized. But numbers can’t measure all of the lives that have been changed, the hurts that have been healed and the families that have been impacted this past year.
But when everything is said and done 2006 is gone, it exists now only in our memories, and will be perpetuated forever in our record books. For all we have done, all we have accomplished, all we have struggled together for is but a mist that appeared for a little while and then vanished. If we were to stop now and go no further then 2006 would have been a wasted effort.
Part of the Scripture that was read this morning was Philippians 3:13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, This Scripture has two main premises, two distinct trains of thought. 1) Forgetting what is behind and 2) Straining toward what is ahead. Two distinct commands, made in opposite directions and yet affirming one another. Throughout the Bible we are treated to a Hebraic Literary device called parallelism and that simply means that something is stated twice in different ways. For example, Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd” “I shall not want” and Psalms 78:1 says “O my people, hear my teaching;” “listen to the words of my mouth.” and Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything,” “and a season for every activity under heaven:” I’m sure that King David would have been proud of Paul and his writing style.
There are several things as we look out over a brand new year that must be forgotten. Things that need to be disposed of. Not simply placed in a closet to be taken out and dusted off from time to time, fondled and examined, but gotten rid of completely. In Philippians 3:14 Paul draws a comparison between our life and a race. What is behind is fine, but it is behind and unless our effort remains consistent it has little bearing on the result of the race. A runner doesn’t place any stock in how many circuits he’s done, only the number that are left.
Friends it may be a cliche but “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” How do you want to spend today? Yesterday is gone, it cannot be altered, changed or relived. If you continue to live for yesterday you won’t only miss out on today, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll miss out on tomorrow as well. What do we need to forget?
1) We Need to Forget our Resentments As the New Year stretches out in front of us like an unmarked page, maybe we’d better take the time to clean our pens before we leave our mark. Resentments are dangerous toys for Christians to be playing with and there is no place for them within the grace that God has given us. My favourite American President of all time was Abraham Lincoln, and it was said of Lincoln “His heart was as great as the world but there was no room in it for the memory of a wrong.” If somebody did something to you last year, forget it. If somebody said something about you last year, forget it. I love the comment that says “Speak well of your enemies, after all you made them.”
You say “Preacher I can forgive but I can’t forget.” That may be your philosophy but it’s not the philosophy of the Bible. Instead Jesus told us in Mark 11:25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
You see the measure with which you forgive is the measure that Christ uses when He forgives you. “But Denn you don’t know what they did to me or said to me.” No I don’t and my heart breaks for all of the hurts out there, but it also breaks for the hurt that people do to themselves when they hold on to and nurture the hurts of the past. Why? Because that will destroy you quicker then anything. When you dwell on how hard done by you are it will eat you up and make you bitter. If someone can make you stoop so low as to hate them, they win. As we step into 2007 let’s forget all of the petty hurts and injustices, and all of the big hurts and injustices from 2006 and 2005 and 2004 and 2003 etc. etc. etc. If you can forget only one thing in today, forget the grievances that you have against others whether they be friend or foe and get on with your life.
2) We need to forget our worries. If you’ve been in our living room then you know that we have two rocking chairs, and they are like worry. They give you something to do, but they don’t get you anywhere. I am convinced that 2/3 or those who suffer mental illness are worrying about something over which they have no control. Somebody said, “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through our minds, if encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thought are drained.” Has that every happened to you? You start worrying about something and pretty soon you discover that it has consumed all your other thoughts.
Let’s put it into perspective. There are 773, 672 words in the Bible, don’t ask me how I know. The word worry is used 13 times. compare that with trust that is used 126 times, faith used 270 times, believe used 226 times and love used 551 times. If you want to narrow it down even more, of the 13 times that worry is used, 11 times we are told not to worry and of the other two one asks the question “Why do you worry” and the other one says “Tomorrow will worry about itself.”
It’s been said that “Worry has killed more people then work.” but maybe that’s because more people worry then work. Listen up people, “Worry” is a sin. it’s not just a danger, not just a nuisance, not just a pastime, not just a habit it is a sin! The same Bible that says do not commit adultery and do not kill also says do not worry. Worry is a sin because worry is saying, “I don’t believe that God can handle my problems.” Too often we are like the old lady who said, “I always feel bad when I feel good, because I know that I’ll feel bad after awhile.” There are two types of things that we worry about, a) things we can do something about, and b) things we can’t do anything about. So we ought to do something about the first group and forget the second group.
I love the story of the Bishop who had this irrational fear that his legs were going to become paralysed. One night while he was at a dinner party he reached down and pinched his leg, when he couldn’t feel anything he exclaimed out loud, “Just as I feared total insensitivity below the waist.” The lady sitting next to him responded by saying, “If it’s any comfort your grace, the leg you pinched was mine.” I mean face it people the very least we can do is make sure that we are pinching our own leg.
3) We need to forget our failures. Too many people today re paralysed by the fear of failure. Much like Mark Twain wrote, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”
Nobody likes to fail, but it is unfortunate that some people seek to escape failure by not trying, which in itself guarantees failure. Maybe we need to adopt the philosophy of George Bernard Shaw who said, “When I was a young man I observed that nine out of then things I did were failures, I didn’t want to be a failure so I did ten times more work.”
We can’t be afraid of failing because fear of failure becomes the fear of trying. With every attempt comes the possibility of failure. Planting a new church in Bedford contained an element of risk, it contained the possibility of failure, but if we had of focused on how we could fail we would never have planted Cornerstone Wesleyan Church and we wouldn’t be here now, and there are lives that would not have been touched and changed.
As we move into 2007 we need to look beyond past failures to future successes. We have all failed at one time or another in our lives and we know that failure is not defeat. The only impact that yesterday’s failures should have on today’s endeavours is that they should have made us wiser. Let’s forget our failures as we move into the future.
4) We need to forget about our victories and achievements There is nothing wrong with having pride in the achievements which God has permitted us, if it’s not a gloating pride and we recognise that it was God who was the author of our success. But our achievements have as little bearing on tomorrow as did yesterday’s failures. When I was selling on commission it didn’t matter how good last week was you started on Monday with no sales.
No matter how high our attendance was last year, no matter how many people came to our services over the past twelve months, no matter how many people were touched and no matter how many people came to the Lord we can’t stop trying.
When the runner is a lap ahead of his opponents he doesn’t stop to gloat, the race isn’t over until the very end. Too many sports teams have gotten lazy in the last period, inning or quarter only to have an almost certain victory snatched out of their grasp by a hungrier team. No matter how good we thing we are doing we are never good enough to stop trying.
Victories need to be used just as failures are, as simple lessons of life. If we learn not to do a particular thing because it results in failure then we have to learn to follow our successes. The trick is just because something worked well yesterday doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work just as well tomorrow. New ideas and concepts can quickly become dated and traditional if we aren’t careful. We can’t hold onto the old simply because it is old, nor can we embrace everything new that comes down the track just because it’s new. The church is here to minister to society and as society changes so must the church. We don’t change the message, but we may need to change the medium.
Techniques, programs and equipment that was suitable 50, 30, 20, 10 5 or even 1 year ago may not be suitable or effective today. We can’t always base our operation or what worked in ancient history or for that matter what worked yesterday. We need to continue to learn and to use those things that we learned to further the Kingdom of God. We need to forget the failures and also the victories of yesterday and push onto new victories tomorrow. Let’s never become one of those churches that is always talking about the good old days, and how good God was back then, and what a perfect world it used to be.
But simply forgetting isn’t enough, Paul continues to say in Philippians 3:13-14 . . . looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
It’s not enough to let go of the past if you’re not ready to stretch ahead and grab hold of the future. You know what they say, “It doesn’t matter if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
God has great things in store for you! If you want them. But unless you reach out and take them they’ll never be yours. All of 2007 belongs to you, it’s yours and it’s there if you want it. No matter what your past may be your future is spotless.
When I say that 2007 is going to be a great year for us I meant it, and I intend to do everything I can to make it just that. I plan on straining ahead toward what is ahead. I believe that things will be done in, through and by Cornerstone Wesleyan Church that have never been done before, do you believe that? Can you join me in believing that? Do you believe that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church has something to offer to our communities, to Hammonds Plains, Bedford, Sackville, Dartmouth and Halifax? Do you believe that we are preaching a Christ who is relevant to 2007 And do you believe that we are offering the needed love and acceptance that the people of our communities are crying out for?
I believe that we do, and I believe that we can see souls saved and lives changed. Can you see it? Can you reach it? Can you believe it? but more than that I believe that our people, you, are going to get a deeper vision of the Lord and reach out to the people whom you love and care for.
We have to dream. We have to have a vision of the future. But more then that we need to be willing to reach out for that dream, willing to strive for it to yearn for it to strain toward what is ahead.
The picture that Paul is drawing is that of a runner, not content to simply run, but pushing himself to be victorious, reaching out with his fingers straining to push himself over the finish line before his competitors.
Paul was ever pushing, ever straining for the cause of Christ. He was never content to simply watch the race go by but instead had to be in the very fore front. Not content to finish last, or third or even second. Instead Paul sought to run the race as a winner, forgetting the laps that were behind him, his eyes seeing only the victory tape at the end of the course and pushing himself on to that victory.
Let’s run the race. Not as the Cornerstone Wesleyan Church of last year, but as Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in 2007. Jesus doesn’t want us just as we were or just as we are going to be He wants us just as we are.
PowerPoint is available for this message contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org